Unmasked unity

Mask and gathering restrictions lifted June 22, amid rise of Delta variant


Ben Bolstrum, Editor-In-Chief

It has been well over a year since Michigan locked down Mar 10, 2020. Like the rest of the country, to protect the population from potentially catching COVID-19. Since then, daily life has crawled to a halt due to the nation remaining indoors and quarantining. Luckily, with vaccines now obtainable for people 12 and over, this has begun to change.
Forty-five percent of the country has been fully vaccinated with another 53 percent half vaccinated according to Our World in Data. With this added safety net, the country has begun to return to normalcy and another milestone is now able to be met.
Michigan can join the ranks of states that have lifted their restrictions. As of June 22, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has concluded the restrictions on social gatherings and mask mandates that were previously put in place to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections. Now Michiganders can step out of their homes and breathe clean air with a sense of relief for the first time in 15 months. While a total return to form has not arrived yet, this has been a large step in returning to the times before pandemics and lockdowns.
Before this announcement, gatherings were restricted to 50 percent with a maximum amount of 25 people. While these restrictions have widely been lifted, businesses are still able to decide whether or not customers need a mask to receive service.
“Today is a day that we have all been waiting for, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and move forward together,” stated Whitmer. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the medical experts and health professionals who stood on the front lines to keep us all safe. And we are incredibly thankful to all of the essential workers who kept our state moving.” She goes on to thank the millions of Michiganders who chose to receive vaccinations and that these changes were able to be made ahead of schedule because of this.
“Our top priority going forward is taking full advantage of the billions in federal relief funding and our $3.5 billion surplus to jump-start our economy,” she continues. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that Michigan’s families, small businesses, and communities emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before.”

This news comes off the back of the controversial Delta variant of COVID-19 that has reached US soil from India. The strain transfers more easily, has greater hospitalization risk, and has a lower neutralization by serums from people who have been infected and vaccinated. Despite this, efficacy has held up according to data gathered by MedRxiv used in the White House COVID-19 Response. According to this data, there is 88 percent efficacy against Delta two weeks after a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine compared to 93 percent efficacy against the Alpha variant. This is also true with two doses of AstraZeneca which has 60 percent efficacy against Delta compared to 66 percent efficacy against Alpha. After three weeks of one dose, both vaccines only provide 33 percent efficacy against Delta and 50 percent efficacy against Alpha. In terms of hospitalizations, Pfizer-BioNTech is 96 percent effective with Oxford-AstraZeneca trailing behind at 92 percent, both comparable rates to the Alpha variant. Delta is especially harmful to those who have not been vaccinated, particularly young people 18-26 according to White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci who also says:
“The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempts to eliminate Covid-19. Good news: Our vaccines are effective against the Delta variant: Conclusion: We have the tools, so let’s use them and crush the outbreak.”
What this means for Michigan has yet to be seen, but the steps that have been taken will allow those who have followed the precautions put out by the White House and CDC and are safely vaccinated to take a deep breath and step into the world, without the fear of harming themselves or those around them.